How far can this change campaign go? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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How far can this change campaign go?

Buhari, change campaign
Posted: Sep 8, 2016 at 7:08 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
As government kick starts a new re-orientation campaign tagged “Change Begins With Me” today, Olamide Bakare, who has been following developments in respect to rebranding and reorientation exercise by successive governments in Nigeria, writes that this may well be another wild goose chase if the fundamental issues bedeviling the nation are not addressed.
Barring any hitches, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari would be launching a new reorientation campaign today as one of the policy instruments to drive its change agenda. The initiative which is tagged “change begins with me” came to the consciousness of Nigerians when the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told journalists at a gathering that government was determined to carry out its  change agenda by initiating messages and campaigns that would cut across all facets of life. Since the announcement, many brand analysts and commentators have expressed divergent views on the issue with some saying that it was a wrong step while others believed that government may have chosen the right path in view of the moral deficits and attitudinal challenges besetting every citizen of the country.
As it has always been with any of  such initiatives, it is marked with a lot of fanfare with leaders from different part of the country including government officials chorusing what is needed to be changed particularly in the areas of social behaviours. As it is noticed in several campaigns, there are thoughts that the campaign messages may end up like others held in the past with messages echoed at the ceremony lost in the minds of not only the followers but also the leaders. While it is hoped that the new campaign targeted at entrenching good social behaviours would achieve the much desired impact, there are thinkings in various quarters that it may not yield any meaningful results because the issues involved in the current dispensations were much more complex than what obtained when the first reorientation campaign tagged War Against Indiscipline, WAI was launched. Beyond the issue of challenges affecting the growth of the economy as well as the insecurity in the land, brand analysts have posited that the refusal of government to engage with critical stakeholders in the project may prove to undo the success that may likely be achieved having regards to the fact that these key stakeholders are richly blessed with the expertise.
Aside the fact that the government is embarking on the campaign, some analysts also think parastatals of government may be working at cross purposes with the launching of WAI which is targeted at addressing the same objectives.
Although the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had earlier engaged with stakeholders such as Outdoor Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, OAAN; Advertisers Association of Nigeria, ADVAN and Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, BON, brand watchers think the deliberate intention of government to ignore major stakeholders could have serious bearing on the success of the project. To them, stakeholders such as NIPR and AAAN should not have been side lined considering the role they play in the provision and execution of strategy as seen in many successful projects that had been done for corporate organisations.
While commenting on the campaign, a media expert, Mr. Ikem Okuhu, described the campaign as one of the many policy embarrassments the administration is about committing considering the huge funds that would be allocated amidst economic challenges confronting Nigerians. Besides, Okuhu noted that by some of the actions taken by the minister of information  and other key officials, it was clear that government is not ready to pursue the intended meaning of what the tagline stands for.
He said: “You remember the allegation that the minister of Information requested for N13million, is that who should champion the idea of change they are clamouring for? I don’t think they are serious at all. We have seen cases of government officials flouting directives and yet you want Nigerians to align with the campaign. I don’t think it would succeed.”
Also, in a recent chat with Independent, The Former chairman of Advertising Practitioner Council of Nigeria, APCON, Mr. Lolu Akinwunmi, who was also the driver of the rebranding exercise undertaken by the Yar a’dua’s administration  had said that this administration may have been positioned to fail on the project if critical stakeholders such as AAAN and NIPR were not being carried along in this kind of exercise.
Akinwunmi, who admitted that the rebranding, which he chaired failed owing to paucity of funds, explained that it was wrong to always assume that reorientation of individuals or citizens or country must be fashioned out in form of projects. According to him, there are several ways that can be devised to drive the message without necessarily embarking on any project. While he agreed that government has a big role to play in driving the narrative, he said it was important that leaders in all facets of the administration live to their promises by ensuring that the social contract it enters with the citizenry are carried out to the letter.
At a recent forum, the chief executive officer of C & F Porter Novelli, Mr. Nnaemeka Maduegbuna, had pointed out that the image deficit of the country was doing more damage than good especially in the area of foreign investment, urging government to invest more in building the country’s reputation through the provision of necessary infrastructure and vigorous fight against corruption. He noted that Nigeria was losing its place in the comity of great Africa nations stating that the country now ranked below top five among African countries with big foreign portfolio investment.
Also speaking, the Chief Executive Officer of Integrated Indigo, Mr. Bolaji Abimbola,  said  it was clear from what happened that the government lacks knowledge of how vital communication is going by the ways it has handled many of its policies and programmes. Abimbola, who expressed dismay why critical stakeholders were ignored in the project, said there was little to expect as the campaign may have been put together with the intention to fail. To him, there are many issues which ought to be addressed if meaningful successes are to be achieved by such laudable initiative stressing that what Nigerians would want to hear at this time are steps being taken towards economic recovery.  Abimbola noted that though the campaign may be appropriate but the timing was wrong. He said at a time when many Nigerians were finding things difficult economically, it was wrong to now focus attention on reorientation of values.
He said: “The Campaign, to me, is destined to fail. In as much as I would believe it is appropriate, I think it is belated. For me, what would have been the talking point for this government would have been what they are doing to revamp the economy. One thing we must know is that communication is about addressing the most pressing needs of citizens. At this time, I don’t think value reorientation falls within the interest of any Nigerian. Communication is about profiling your audience, understanding their nuances and ranking them in order of priorities. If you have been following the talks among Nigerians, you will notice that the narrative of change has been bastardised. To Nigerians, change connotes negativity. Because if you are buying rice at N8, 000 and now it is being sold for N20,000, it means it is not good. I think we need ask government some salient questions about the whole idea. One, is that is it not another jamboree or wasteful advertising as we have seen in other similar projects in the past, which will make little or no impact. What are the overriding objectives of the campaign? Has the government been able to get the buy in of media organisations who were involved in the BBOG campaigns? If such campaign were to be carried out at all, I believed it should be done with fanfare. The National Orientation Agency, NOA, should have been the main driver where they now involved influencers such as bloggers, online platform owners to be involved at no cost. At the moment, what should have been the focus is to assure Nigerians that it is working hard to get the economy back on track.”
Past Exercises
In 1999, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration charted another rebranding exercise, which was launched by former Information and National Orientation Minister, Chukwuemeka Chikelu.
Tagged “Heart of Africa”, it was dead on arrival as another African country faulted the campaign theme which that country had already adopted.
However, several attempts at reviving the campaign failed as Abuja abandoned the project half way despite the millions of naira invested.
The late President Umaru Yar’Adua embarked on what remained the most expensive brand Nigeria campaign to date, headed by late former Information Minister, Dora Akunyili.
The “Good People, Great Nation” campaign became very controversial and little was achieved despite massive publicity.
Avoiding Major Stakeholders On The Exercise
To confirm that all was well with the sectoral group and the Minister concerning their engagement on the project, a former AAAN President, Kelechi Nwosu,  had said that though the minister may have his reason for not including the association in the said meeting, he explained that the association was working out its plan to contribute its quota in repositioning the Nigerian brand.
He confirmed that “we have had preliminary talks with the sectorial groups (ADVAN, OAAN, MIPAN, BON) on these campaigns.
“As usual, they are interested but we need to agree on how to prioritise the various elements of the advocacy campaigns.
“It is important that everybody does his bit. What we are doing as AAAN is to support our country, it is very important that everybody does something in these tough times to support our government. That is what we believe in.
“I am aware that Minister of Information has met ADVAN, OAAN, APCON, NPAN because I was at these various meetings, but I am shocked that he has not actually met AAAN.
“I think that question will be better answered by the minister because we have made ourselves available and asked for a meeting with him. I believe he is busy and will get around to it when it is convenient for him.”